RESPONSIBILITY AND DELEGATION

Before continuing with authority, let us note another important concept that is a twin of authority; that is, responsibility. This can be defined as follows: Responsibility is the obligation of an individual to perform assigned activities to the best of his or her ability.

Can authority be delegated? Can responsibility be delegated? There is little debate concerning the delegation of authority - authority can and should be delegated. For example, a manager might very well choose to delegate the authority to subordinates to make expenditures, without approval, up to a stipulated amount. However, considerable debate often arises with regard to the delegation of responsibility. A close analysis of this debate generally reveals that the debate is more the result of semantics rather than a misunderstanding of the concepts involved. Those contending that responsibility cannot be delegated support their answer by stating that managers can never shed the responsibilities of their jobs by passing them on to subordinates. Those contending that responsibility can be delegated justify their position by pointing out that managers can certainly make subordinates responsible to them for certain actions. both parties are correct. Managers can delegate responsibilities to subordinates in the sense of making subordinates responsible to them. However, this delegation to subordinates does not make managers any less responsible to their superior. thus delegation of responsibility does not mean abdication of responsibility by the delegating manager.

Responsibility is not like an object which can be passed from individual to individual. Suppose the claims manager for a life insurance company decided to delegate to the claims investigators the responsibility for insuring that all claims are investigated within a 60-day limit as stated by company policy. The claims manager can certainly make the investigators accountable (responsible) to him or her regarding this matter. At the same time the claims manager is no less accountable to his or her boss.

Effective management requires that, for every management member, authority should be commensurate with responsibility. This is referred to as the parity principle. Management must delegate sufficient authority to subordinates who can do their jobs. At the same time subordinates can be expected to accept responsibility only for those areas within their authority.

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